Sunday, February 03, 2013

Ray Bradbury, Burning Books, and Do What You Love

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

I re-watched a video interview with Ray Bradbury. He was super old at the time and late in his life, so he didn't hold back about telling you the straight dope about his writing process. He wrote every day for 75 years. Every fucking day. That's someone to look up to.

I have a weird connection to Ray Bradbury because he lived in Southern California his whole life (mostly in Venice) and he never drove. I think he had bad eyesight and his wife drove him everywhere (when he was not walking or riding a bicycle). It's fucking so weird to live in Los Angeles and not drive... but that's my life. In many ways it's refreshing. In other (obvious ways), it feels like a prison sentence, or being left out of a cool club that everyone is a member of except you.

Several things stood of Bradbury's interview, but the one that I'm thinking about the most this week is about how he wrote novels. Most authors birth a character and then put that character into a situation. For Bradbury, he said the characters were already alive and came to him to tell him their story. All he did was write down what they told him. Fascinating way to look at the process. I wondered how I could incorporate that.

With the rise of reality TV, you're well aware of the "confessional" shot in which the subject sits in a dark room but front of the camera and they pour out their heart. Some of this is edited for TV. Some of it was prodded on by a producer (off camera). But you get what I'm talking about... the subject just speaks and tells you their story, or at least, their version of the story.

I decided to try out Bradbury's process but with a modern twist. I imagined (my) characters getting interviewed for Intervention (mainly because I'm stuck writing in a genre that can only be described as "post-modern junkie lit" and as much as I enjoy sci-fi, it's a genre I doubt I'll ever delve into, so I'll stick to Po-Mo Junk Lit). They all have their share of pain... both on the surface and buried deep below. How do you draw all of that out? Putting characters into every day situations is one way, but like real people, even my own characters will lie or be disingenuous by masking their feelings. I'd like to get the straight dope, but without any headtripping fugues (e.g. any Charlie Kaufman film) of characters within characters. No, I wanted a raw, no-bullshit face-to-face interview.

I'm re-starting a project with Bradbury's advice as my primary objective. I invited the characters to come to me and tell me their story, which I'll gladly write down (and hope to eventually sell). Bradbury said, "All my characters write the book. I don't write the book. All these characters come to me and say 'Listen to me!'... that's how I write."

One last side note... Ray Bradbury wrote Fahrenheit 451 about a fascist state that burns books. He was a kid during WWII, but he was inspired by newsreel footage of Nazis burning books in the streets of Berlin.

"We should learn from history about the destruction of books," said Bradbury.

It's scary to think about how Bradbury's dystopian future about book burners is becoming more and more of a reality. The written word is in the middle of a cultural genocide. I won't let it die out in this Twitter-riffic world. Hence why I felt it necessary to re-boot Tao of Pauly. I won't let the gatekeepers burn words.

Here is Ray Bradbury's inspiring interview:

And here's a documentary about Bradbury from 1963. There's a few good clips...

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